Restaurant Marketing Plan: Free Template and Walkthrough Guide

4 Articles 8th September 2021 5,423 Readers

Whether you’re opening a new restaurant or looking to revitalise your existing operation after a tough period, the key to your success lies in the digital marketing plan.

There’s just one problem: either you haven’t written it yet, or the old plan has been gathering dust for years.

We’d like to help, which is why we’ve created a brilliant digital marketing plan for restaurants. It’s a simple, free PDF download that will encourage you to answer the questions that’ll result in the best possible plan.

Our task today is to get you thinking about those questions!

The all-important mission statement

No restaurant digital marketing plan is complete (or even started) without a mission statement.

The problem is that if you start searching the internet for marketing plan mission statements, you’ll quickly discover that most of them are pretty poor and far too generic (they’re rarely geared towards restaurants, for instance).

Your mission statement needs to be totally unique for your business, its customers, and the essence of the brand. For instance, “we want to create the most authentic Tamil food in Bristol” is far more deliberate, relevant, and specific than “we want to create the best Indian cuisine in Bristol”.

To develop a mission statement as good as that, you need to remind yourself of why mission statements exist.

The whole point of a mission statement is to:

  • remind yourself, your staff, and your customers why you opened the restaurant in the first place;

  • differentiate yourself from the restaurant down the road;
  • attract the best possible employees; and

  • align every constituent part of the business.

It really does have quite a tough job, eh? To help brainstorm yours, start writing down why the restaurant exists, what you want it to look like three years later, and the experience it will offer customers.

The questions in our PDF download will dig into this in far greater detail, but it’s better to come prepared.

marketing plan mock up 2

Your audience (you can’t do it without them)

Your restaurant’s digital marketing plan is, ultimately, for your customers. Or, in marketing terms, your audience.

The more you know about your audience, the more you can tailor your digital marketing plan to meet their requirements. Becoming their ‘best mate’ will also ensure you know how to keep tempting them back and ensure they recommend you to their family and friends.

The restaurant industry is fascinating when it comes to audience personas. The same person can be entirely different in terms of their mood and requirements depending on when they enter the restaurant, and their tastes are likely to develop over time.

There are a few questions you can ask yourself before undertaking this critical part of your restaurant digital marketing plan:

  • What type of customer is your restaurant likely to attract?
  • What are they realistically likely to spend on average?
  • What type of food are they going to like the most?
  • Through which marketing channels are you most likely to find them?
  • At which times of the day are they most likely to walk through your doors?

The more targeted you can get with your audience, the more success you’ll have with future marketing campaigns, because you’ll know exactly who will be on the other end of them.

Competitor analysis

Did you know that you’ll have three types of competitor while running a restaurant business?

They are:

  • 1. Direct. These guys offer the same food as you, and a very similar experience. They’re pretty much on your doorstep, too.
  • 2. External. Restaurants that offer similar menus to yours in nearby locations are best described as external competition.
  • 3. Occasional. Less of a concern but definitely worth keep an eye on, occasional competition will feature different venues and be located further away from you. But they will share some of your customer demographics.

Restaurant Digital Marketing Plan - competitor analysis

We’ve got some good news. In order to undertake the most comprehensive competitor analysis, you’re just going to have to suck it up and go and eat out. A lot.

In doing so, you’ll get to see what works, what doesn’t, and be inspired by the stuff you can jump on which the competition is overlooking.

Just don’t forget to look at each competitor’s website, too, along with their wider online presence. What sort of persona have they created for the restaurant? What are they saying on social media? How easy - or difficult - is it to book a table with them, directly, online?

SWOT analysis

You’ve probably heard of this before, but to confirm, it stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

A SWOT analysis is imperative for any restaurant digital marketing plan. Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to start getting some ideas down.

Here are some questions to get you going:

Strengths: is it your pricing? Quality of the menu? The customer service? Perhaps it’s where you’re located. Why would people visit your restaurant?

Weaknesses: be honest. Where does your restaurant lack? Are you conscious that the pricing might be too high? Or is the location prone to high levels of external noise? Is parking tricky?

Opportunities: which internal factors do you have ultimate control over? Which opportunities did you identify during your competitor research?

Threats: are there new restaurants opening in your area? Has the competition already leapfrogged you with their menu ideas?

A SWOT analysis requires ultimate honesty. It’s not easy, and will require lots of pointed questions to be asked of your ideas and the restaurant itself, but it will set you in seriously good stead.

Market differentiators

Differentiation is, arguably, one of the hardest tasks for any restaurant marketing plan.

After all, with so many restaurants out there already, how do you offer something truly unique?

The truth is that there’s no single thing that will differentiate your restaurant from the rest. It’ll be a combination of everything that makes your brand special.

You’re unlikely to be the first in your area, so, instead, combine the elements of your restaurant that others are yet to combine.

Some ideas for the constituent elements of differentiation:

  • product;
  • price;
  • location;
  • seating;
  • events;
  • ordering;
  • dietary considerations;
  • menu design;
  • social media persona; and
  • offers.

It might even be that your target market is a differentiating factor. For instance, if you’re the first entirely gluten-free restaurant in your neighbourhood that offers its own in-house baked GF bread, your likely to attract an audience none of your direct competitors can.

The channels to focus on

There are four channels you’ll need to take into consideration for your restaurant’s digital marketing plan:

  • offline;
  • third-party booking sites;
  • your website;
  • social media.

Offline includes everything from traditional leaflet drops to banner advertising in the local press.

Third-party booking sites will take a commission for each reservation you receive but will occupy some of the most prized positions within Google search results. Lean on them to find new business, but don’t spend your entire marketing budget on bringing return guests back via that method.

Your website is key to the most profitable bookings you’ll obtain beyond those that arrive via the telephone. You’ll need to invest time and a bit of budget in creating a website that is easy to navigate on any sized screen and which promotes direct booking on every single page.

Then, there’s social media, where you’ll need to spend a lot of your time. The key lies in identifying the social media platforms on which you’re most likely to find your ideal guests.

This takes us right back to the audience research you undertook at the start of the process. Where are they likely to be found online? Is Facebook a good hunting ground for you, and, if so, can you budget for some ads? What about Twitter? Is it going to be a better idea to invest your time in Instagram?

A bit like visiting restaurants to research the competition, you’ll need to do the same with your marketing channels. Hop online and have a proper hunt through the noise your competitors and potential customers are already making.

Voice and tone

Good news - this is an element of your restaurant marketing plan on which you don’t have to spend too much time initially.

This is because the tone and voice of your restaurant’s brand will develop over time. All you need to do at this stage is map out your initial ideas on how you’d like it to come across.

Restaurant Digital Marketing Plan -word cloud

The best way to do this is to picture your restaurant as a person. How would they talk, act, and behave? How would they make you laugh and smile?

Give them a name, if you need to. The more you personify your restaurant, the more its unique character will begin to shine through. Then, you can ensure the qualities of that character bleed through into your social media content and the words on your website. Wrapping up

We hope the above has got your creative juices flowing. Next, we recommend downloading our free restaurant marketing plan questionnaire where we’ll dig into all of the points above in much greater detail.